Review Summary: incomplete rejuvenationLaughing Stock
by Talk Talk is widely considered to be one of the best albums of all time, seminal as one of the origin points for post-rock and on its own merit. It excels for a million reasons, but not least of all is the tension it patiently constructs and eventually exhales throughout its perfectly paced runtime. The first track, "Myrrhman," takes its time introducing each instrument, slowly pushing forward through its loops and patterns into something more significant, when, somewhat suddenly, it ends. Everything drops off, and we're stuck wondering what's next, until a few seconds later when the next song starts and it all makes sense. Without "Myrrhman," Laughing Stock
would start harshly and feel abrupt, and without Laughing Stock
, "Myrrhman" is just a sprinter bending down to put their hands on the ground in front of them. This is exactly Postcards From Nowhere
's problem: it's just "Myrrhman" six times in a row.
Six variations on "Myrrhman" are still six variations on brilliance, so this isn't as much of an insult as it sounds. Gigi Masin is a tragically overlooked ambient artist who has worked for over three decades now (most famous perhaps for being sampled by everyone from Bjork to Main Attrakionz), and Jonny Nash is a more recently noted producer pushing Eno's invention into the jazz world. Both of these very creative and prolific individuals contribute to this project, and the blending of their talents is not only seamless but long-planned, as they are two parts of a three-man band that has already released two albums. They work here in stunning harmony, mixing hope with peace and anxiety with continuity. For better and worse, to listen to Postcards
is to sit in a room with Masin and Nash piecing together piano and guitar into something much more beautiful than this description would make you expect, just listening to two great minds constructing together within a scene of their own invention. Unfortunately, that doesn't always mean they create a world for us to hear, just that they clearly inhabit the same auditory space. This is reflected in these tracks' inability to coalesce into something powerful. Each song, on its own, is flawless. Anyone looking for a soundtrack to lend some weight to an important moment would be lucky to have this - for the few minutes before the next song starts. The problem is in its lack of motion overall. Once you've heard two minutes of this, you know what will happen for the next twenty-five.
Again, these minutes are still enjoyable, a strikingly charming performance from two artists who do nothing but improve their skill set. It's just that it's obvious they have more in them, when every song ends with no real conclusion, each disconnected from the rest in all but timbre. Tellingly, the press release for the project is mostly focused on the origins of the music (improvisational, created within a temporary installation) and even more so the details of the physical product itself (a high-quality vinyl LP created in partnership with various brands and printers). It's hard not to feel a bit alienated here, given that Postcards
almost feels like it was created by happenstance. Compare this, again, to Laughing Stock
, which had the opposite problem - their recording sessions were run by a notoriously perfectionist Mark Hollis, who somehow managed to capture planned extemporization at the expense of the band's happiness. Maybe in a world where Talk Talk didn't create their crowning jewel, Masin and Nash would deserve more praise for their relatively quick work here, but it's impossible to answer what-if questions with any real certainty. What is known is that it's clear now that there could have been more here. Postcards
is meaningful, but not in a way that propels itself to the finish line. They did good, but they can do better.